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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 72 - March 1993
A Surprise Christmas Present - Anthea Hanscomb
I've had the ultimate in Christmas presents - a driving lesson on 4472 Flying Scotsman! As a bonus I was allowed to do some of the oiling up and put a few shovelsful of coal on the fire, at 5.30am. As it was rather an early start we decided to stay at the Ennerdale Hotel instead of leaving Amersham at 3.30am. Chris Else, a most cheerful proprietor, said "Tyseley? can't miss it, two minutes down the road on the right." True, at 100mph! We found it, eventually. It was dark, except for the horrible orange glow from the lights of Birmingham, and raining. We couldn't find the way in and finally, somewhat cold and wet discovered an unlocked gate near the BR track. We made our way to the engine shed where David Davies, one of the instructors, was filling up large oil cans. He wanted to know what had kept us and was amazed we had missed the way in. In daylight we saw what he meant!
Oiling up was somewhat different from Coventry and some of the oiling points were nearly out of my reach, but it was nice to be able to oil the valve gear without having to be spreadeagled across the motion. When the oiling up was finished I put several shovelsful on the fire, into the corners (with difficulty) and under the firehole door. My favourite engine was looking grubby with ash everywhere. She was working long hours, all day every day.
At 7.30am, when the first three "drivers" arrived for their two-hour turn we went back to the hotel for breakfast, returning to the visitor's centre shortly after nine o'clock. There I met the two men who were to be my companions on the footplate. After a safety talk by Jeff Robinson, one of the volunteers, the two men went off to be kitted out with boiler suits. We were all issued with high visibility tabards. Then we were taken to the engine. She was just pulling into the platform with her first three learners. Alan Walsh was our instructor and as the others came off the footplate David Davies told him the boiler needed water. He was right, the water in the gauge glass was on the bottom nut. I know there are three inches of water over the crown but it made me uneasy. Alan explained the cab layout to us, then dribbled a little water into the boiler- it didn't make much difference. As we did the first run up the siding I watched the water disappear in the glass. Finally I could bear it no longer and, apologizing to Alan for fussing, I asked him to put in some more water. I told him my instructor had been ex Kings Cross. He laughed and said "three quarters of a glass," and put on the injector, explaining as he did that the regulator gland on the boiler back plate was leaking and if he filled the boiler too full it would be a waste of water. I kept an eye on the gauge glasses and Alan kept dribbling in some water, keeping it at about a third. I'll bet he was glad when the fussy old woman's two hours were up!
My two companions offered me first turn on the regulator but I chickened out. After all, they had driven Defiant some weeks earlier and it was twelve years or more since I had driven Coventry and then it had been only a short distance. We were instructed to let off the steam brake, open the regulator wide and snap it shut. Then, when the engine was moving, open up again. That way it wouldn't slip. When it came to my turn I gave a good tug and smartly snapped it shut. Nothing happened. "You'll have to open it much wider than that," said Alan, giving the regulator a good yank. 4472 responded with an encouraging PUFF, PUFF, PUFF, and we were off. He snapped it shut and we coasted along. "Open her up again," he said, which I did but again it wasn't enough and Alan gave it another yank. We woofed smartly along. "Shut off now," he instructed, "and stop just short of that notice." In my anxiety I stopped far too short. Brake on, into reverse gear, brake off and watch the vacuum gauge. It was downhill a bit so, before 21 inches had been created, 4472 was beginning to roll. A quick look out to make sure the line was clear, a blast on the whistle and we were off.
Winding into reverse gear turned out to be far harder than I had expected. As I grappled with it I said I was surprised considering how well I had oiled it all in the early hours of the morning. Of course the link was being lifted so winding into reverse gear was harder than into forward gear. Secretly I was beginning to wonder if my advanced years were going to be something of a drawback. "Last week," said Alan cheerfully, "there was a woman of 82 driving Defiant." Good heavens, how did she manage the reverser? Defiant's is easier than 4472's, I was told, and so apparently is the regulator. If I'm still about in ten years time I'll have a go on Defiant!
Back in the yard after my first run I stopped short. Into forward gear, this was easier, off with the brake, take a quick look for anyone on the line, a blast on the whistle and off we went. This time I managed to yank the regulator wide open and we woofed off. We were doing two runs each, turn and turn about. I lost count of how many turns I had I was enjoying myself so much. Towards the end of the two hours I was just beginning to get the hang of the engine and twice I actually stopped where I had intended! Chris Else had borrowed a friend's camcorder and some shots were taken while I was oiling up and shovelling coal and then some more while I was driving. It will amuse the grandchildren!
It was a wrench when our time was up. Reluctantly we climbed down having thanked Alan for a wonderful time. The next three climbed aboard and off went 4472, up and down the yard again, driven by three more happy, eager steam enthusiasts. What she thought of it all I dare not guess.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 01 December 2017